In an effort to advance basic and applied research for lunar and planetary science, and advance human exploration of the solar system through scientific discovery, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute or SSERVI. The institute fosters collaborations with science and exploration communities, which enables cross-disciplinary partnerships with research institutions, both domestic and abroad.
NASA has selected four new research teams to join the existing nine teams in SSERVI to address scientific questions about the moon, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and their near space environments, in cooperation with international partners.
“We look forward to collaborative scientific discoveries from these teams,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These results will be vital to NASA successfully conducting the ambitious activities of exploring the solar system with robots and humans.”
SSERVI members include academic institutions, non-profit research institutes, private companies, NASA centers and other government laboratories. The new teams – which SSERVI will support for five years at a combined total of about $3-5 million per year – were selected from a pool of 22 proposals based on competitive peer-review evaluation.
The selected SSERVI member teams, listed with their principal investigators and research topics, are:
- Network for Exploration and Space Science (NESS); Jack Burns, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. NESS will implement cross-disciplinary partnerships to advance scientific discovery and human exploration at target destinations by conducting research in robotics, cosmology, astrophysics and heliophysics that is uniquely enabled by human and robotic exploration at the moon, near-Earth asteroids and comets, and Phobos and Deimos.
- Toolbox for Research and Exploration (TREX); Amanda Hendrix, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. TREX aims to develop tools and research methods for exploration of airless bodies, like the moon and asteroids, that are coated in fine-grained dust in order to prepare for human missions. Laboratory spectral measurements and experiments will accompany studies of existing datasets to understand surface characteristics and to investigate potential resources on airless bodies.
- Radiation Effects on Volatiles and Exploration of Asteroids and Lunar Surfaces (REVEALS); Thomas Orlando, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia. The REVEALS team will explore radiation processing of natural regolith and human-made composite materials to understand the condensed-matter physics and radiation chemistry that can lead to volatile formation, sequestration and transport. This team also will explore how novel materials and real-time radiation detectors can minimize risks and exposure to dangerous radiation during human exploration missions.
- Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (ESPRESSO); Alex Parker, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. Team ESPRESSO will focus on characterizing target surfaces and mitigating hazards that create risk for robotic and human explorers. It will work to assess the geotechnical and thermomechanical properties of target body surfaces to help us understand and predict hazards like landslides, and to improve our understanding of impact ejecta dynamics.
“We are extremely pleased that the community responded with such high-quality proposals, and look forward to the many contributions SSERVI will make in addressing NASA’s science and exploration goals,” said SSERVI Director Yvonne Pendleton.
The SSERVI central office, located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, is funded by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and manages national and international collaborative partnerships, designed to push the boundaries of science and exploration.